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After year-long search, Richland County hires new administrator

What is happening with the Richland County Administrator

During a special meeting of the Richland County Council, the termination of the county administrator was presented and voted on for a second time. The motion passed and Gerald Seals is on administrative leave.
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During a special meeting of the Richland County Council, the termination of the county administrator was presented and voted on for a second time. The motion passed and Gerald Seals is on administrative leave.

After a year-long search, Richland County has named Leonardo Brown as its new county administrator.

Brown was announced as the new administrator in a news release Friday afternoon. He is scheduled to start July 15.

Brown is currently the administrator of Smith County, Texas, a county of 250,000 residents with a budget of $250 million.

The county administrator job has been vacant since April 2018, when council made a contentious vote to fire former administrator Gerald Seals.

Seals said the vote to fire him was illegal, leading to the council’s approval of a $1 million settlement for the ousted leader.

Interim administrator Edward Gomeau himself resigned in February after four months on the job. Council then appointed the director of the transportation department, John Thompson, as acting administrator.

Brown was one of four finalists for the job announced by Richland County last month, three of whom are currently county administrators somewhere else.

Prior to his eight years leading Smith County, Brown was the county’s director of human resources. The Shreveport, La., native was also an area manager for Enterprise Rent-A-Car. He holds an MBA from LSU Shreveport.

“Mr. Brown’s background well exemplified the skills and qualities county council was looking for to lead this organization,” Council Chairman Paul Livingston said in a statement.

The main challenge Brown will take up in Richland County is the penny tax road improvement program approved by voters in 2012.

Richland County’s $1 billion penny tax program has faced controversy in recent years. The county recently voted to cut ties with a private partnership that had been managing the improvement program. The county has said it can save $4 million by managing the program in-house. The S.C. Supreme Court also ruled that some of the penny tax money was improperly spent and suggested the county may be ordered to pay it back.

A county official has suggested up to $3.4 million may have to be paid back.

Brown has experience managing a road program. In 2017, Smith County voters approved a $39.5 million bond package, according to the Tyler Daily Telegraph, part of the Texas county’s $100 million long-range road plan.

Richland County is South Carolina’s second-largest county, with more than 400,000 residents, and has a general operating budget of $164 million.

Bristow Marchant is currently split between covering Richland County and the 2020 presidential race. He has more than 10 years’ experience covering South Carolina. He won the S.C. Press Association’s 2015 award for Best Series on a toxic Chester County landfill fire, and was part of The State’s award-winning 2016 election coverage.

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